Defending champion in the Indian men's category and one of India's leading long-distance runners, Nitendra Singh Rawat, has pulled out of the 2020 edition of the Mumbai Marathon.
The Armyman, in an exclusive chat with the Olympic Channel, has revealed that an injury to his knee has forced him to withdraw his participation from one of the biggest road races in Asia. “I don’t think I will be in a shape to run in Mumbai. I injured my knee a week back and it doesn’t look good. I have informed the organisers about the same,” said Rawat.
“It’s been a difficult season for me. I have not competed for a while. I was due to run in three races, but every time I would suffer some injury or the other just ahead of the race. First, it was the Worlds (2019 IAAF World Championships), then the Inter-State meet in Lucknow and now the Mumbai marathon,” the 29-year-old explained.
A difficult season
Rawat, who broke into the limelight following a splendid title-winning run at the 2016 edition of the Mumbai Marathon, has had to endure a difficult few months owing to injuries. While he qualified for the Doha Worlds with a fine run at the 2019 Mumbai Marathon, Rawat couldn’t make it to the Qatari capital after sustaining an injury just ahead of the meet.
The Indian’s misfortune, however, didn’t begin there as he was also forced to pull out of the Inter-State Championships in August last year, owing to another injury. “I think the blame lies on me for missing the World Championships,” he said elaborating on the season gone by.
“I ended up overexerting myself and took more load than what I should have. I was so pumped for the Worlds. I wanted to clock the Olympic time there. But the other two instances, that's not been the case. We were in our rhythm. Things were moving ahead as per plans.”
This, however, isn’t the first time that Rawat has seen his career take an unexpected turn. Heading into the Rio 2016 Olympics on the back of some fine form, a lot was expected from the Indian runner. But an unfortunate hamstring injury during the race meant he finished back in 84th position.
Back from the Rio Games, it took Rawat some time to get back on top. But he admits that his time away from the spotlight and the pressure of competition made him mentally stronger.
“Injury is a part of sports. But, it’s your will to do more and motivation that takes a major hit (once you are injured). You see your peers do well and that plays with your head. It's a mental aspect. We have to be mentally strong and believe that the comeback is not that far,” he said.
It’s this mental toughness that Rawat will have to bank upon in the coming months when he gets down to business in the coming months. “The plan is clear. I need to ensure that I give my knee enough rest and get back in shape as soon as possible,” he said talking about his plan in the coming weeks.
“Second, I am targeting the Seoul Marathon (in March). That's one race that I have enjoyed running. I have had good timing there. This time, I will be targeting the Olympic time there.”
Booking a ticket for Tokyo 2020 could prove to be a tricky task for Rawat with the qualifying time set at two hours, 11 minutes and 30 seconds, much lower than his personal best of 2:15:59. But, Rawat sounds confident of making the cut.
“I don't think it's that difficult. I believe if we are in the best of our shapes we can make the Olympic cut. It's not beyond our reach. Marathon is a long race. We can easily cut down on 4-5 minutes if we are training towards that,” he concluded.